Math Class: Through the Looking Glass of a Right-Brained Student


Julia Engles, Staff

Most have heard of the right and left-brain theory which explains the divide between people who are naturals at math and logistics (left-brained) and those who are more well accustomed to the arts (right-brained) 

This theory has been deemed myth, according to technicalities of brain structure/function, yet it still seems true for many high schoolers. If so, what are the consequences of arts-oriented students being subjected to four years of seeming torture that is math class? 

With 45 states, including Maryland, adopting Common Core Standards in 2015, emphasizing the importance of college readiness, a majority of U.S. high schools began enforcing a requirement for students to take a consecutive math class each year. When something just won’t clicked for those who are right brained, it can bring about feelings of stress, incompetence, and discouragement. Doing bad in math classes makes students feel as though they’re not smart enough to do academic tasks, and those ideologies can spill over into other subjects as well.  

Once a student begins to harbor the belief that they’re not good enough, that can affect their overall confidence in subjects they’d typically excel at. Studies show that a student needing to repeat a grade or go to summer school can actually contribute to mental health disorders and stress related ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related illnesses.  

With the Common Core Standards being in place, the stress placed on students to successfully complete a math class all 4 years of high school. There will be some who thrive in math class, and others who struggle. When interviewed, various self-proclaimed right brained students shared their thoughts and feelings about the requirements of math class.  

“I think math classes definitely have the potential to hurt a student’s academic confidence because 4 years of doing badly in math classes will hurt your GPA, making it harder to get into colleges and pursue what they actually want to do,” senior Katie Hawrylak explained.  

Other students explain the potential support math classes in high school could provide for college education.  

“It could be helpful to some students, like people who want to major in math or science, but to all the others who don’t fit those criteria, math class seems pointless, and it makes students struggle for no reason,” senior Fletcher ‘Samuel’ Oakes commented.  

Alternatively, math teacher Gabrielle Hawkes explains the possible necessity of math classes. 

I agree not everyone will end up in a math career, but I also believe you don’t know the future,” Ms. Hawkes explained. You may end up switching careers one day. I know several people who returned to school and needed math again. I am a firm believer in taking advantage of as much knowledge as possible and being ready for any opportunity that could possibly come your way. You just never know when some things may come in handy. But I get it, math really isn’t for everyone. I think it’s good to have four years of math but maybe not always essential. There are a lot of factors that could go both ways”. 

Ms. Hawkes also provided advice for students who don’t easily understand math. 

“You have to want it. Nobody came out of the womb just knowing how to do stuff. Everything is a learning process. You are good at what you want to be good at. Were you born knowing how to crochet? No, it was something you were interested in, so you took the time to learn and practice. Was skateboarding always easy? No, but you wanted to learn, so you kept busting your butt, scraping up your knees and elbows until you got it, because you wanted to. Did you always know how to do knotless braids? No, you sat there and watched hours of YouTube tutorials because you wanted to learn. You must want to become a “math person” to become a “math person.”   

While Ms. Hawkes is a great advocate for math students, not everyone should be forced to become a math person. Even if someone doesn’t know exactly what they want to as a career, they know the subjects that they’ll likely never be interested in, and, for a lot of people, that is math.  

The requirements regarding math classes should be changed. If not for our generation, then for the next I hope that they can be provided with relief from the stressor that is math class. Right-brained students shouldn’t be forced to learn more than the basics in a subject such as math unless they choose to, especially since the majority are unlikely to pursue a math-related career.